One of Bahrain's top Shiite clerics warned Friday that the country is at risk of even deeper tensions after four anti-government protesters were convicted of killing two policemen and sentenced to death by a military court.
Sheik Isa Qassim told thousands of worshippers at Friday prayers that the sentences could bring more rage from the country's Shiite majority since authorities have not made similar investigations into violence used against demonstrators in deadly clashes that began in February.
The death sentences Thursday were the first by a military court for the unrest in the island kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
At least 30 people have died since Bahrain's Shiites began protests for greater rights from Sunni rulers.
The United States, which has called on its Bahraini allies to meet some of the protesters' demands for equal rights, expressed concern about the death sentences.
"We are troubled by the speed with which the trial was conducted and the swiftness of the verdict," Jake Sullivan, the State Department's director of policy planning, told reporters in Washington. "It's important that legal processes be carried out in a manner that is legitimate, credible and transparent."